The Social Animal

March 21st, 2011

For almost 50 years we’ve talked about and often admired the best and the brightest in our government, our businesses and in our political and economic institutions. Yet during this same period, we've seen colossal failure. We have some of the most socially adept politicians, and we are accused of living in a therapeutic culture, yet when confronted with the reality of quality public policy, we get it wrong. Where is the disconnect? How can so many smart people be so wrong, so often? Clearly it’s not a failure of intelligence, but perhaps a failure of imagination, of vocabulary, or more specifically a failure to fully take into account our social nature and the duality between emotions, ideas and reason in a rapidly changing world.

This is a central premise of the new book by N.Y. Times columnist David Brooks entitled The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement.  Told as a kind of allegorical tale, Brooks takes us inside the cutting edge neuroscience of the day and in so doing redefines how we see the world and our place in it. My conversation with David Brooks: